The decade that was supposed to revive the nation’s morality put televangelists on the “dishonor roll” instead.

Ten years ago evangelicals had it made. The glow of Time magazine’s proclamation of 1976 as the year of the evangelical still shone brightly, and a CT-George Gallup poll found that “more and more people are affirming evangelical Christianity as their personal religious commitment.” Could it get any better? We thought so when we welcomed the new decade by inaugurating Ronald Reagan. What a country!

In many ways, the past decade has given us some of our best years, both as citizens and Christians. For example, ten years ago who would have predicted the democratization of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines? Likewise, the slight reduction in nuclear arms suggests the superpowers may indeed be able to turn back the hands on the nuclear clock. The disarray of theological liberalism has led many to return to their evangelical roots, and the growing sense of urgency in the missions movement gives us occasion for rejoicing. For those who have spent the decade working to eliminate abortion on demand, the Supreme Court’s Webster decision offers hope.

Such gains, however, have not come easily, and along the way, the church has suffered. The “dishonor roll” of fallen ministers and the public viewing of televangelism’s dirty laundry have indeed been setbacks to the cause of Christ. But then, it is in such valleys that one finds God’s richest resources. Both the good and the bad of the past ten years have taught us at least three important truths.

From the Republicanization of the 1980s we have learned that a kinder, gentler government does not necessarily guarantee a favorable moral climate. The rhetoric of law and order, flag and family sounds hollow against the anguished moans of a culture that kills 1.5 million fetuses each year, supports an $8–10 billion-a-year pornography industry, and claims 18 million citizens addicted to alcohol and 28 million abusers of illegal drugs. Violent crime has increased steadily during the decade, and the notion of white-collar crime has been firmly imbedded in our memories. Mind you, we don’t blame Republican administrations or Democratic-controlled Congresses, but the lack of an appreciable moral reformation in this decade is further proof that Christians should never delegate their leavening influence to the politicians.

On the other hand, the eighties have taught us the value of forming relationships with those who do not believe as we do. Not too long ago, Methodists and Baptists, fundamentalists and Catholics, premils and amils refused to cooperate on even the smallest project. Thanks at least in part to the Moral Majority, we have opened the door to a healthy ecumenism. Allies whose theology is less than acceptable are better than enemies with no theology. It is still God’s method to work through the whole church, and during the past decade we came closer to this model of unity.

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Finally, we have learned that the marriage of technology and ministry may not have been made in heaven. True, through the miracle of radio and television and direct-mail marketing strategies, we can reach a larger “market share.” But events of the past decade have taught us that the message is ultimately far more important than the medium. Unfortunately, a glance at your mailbox or Christian television station reveals many still have not learned this lesson.

To the eighties, we say thanks for the lessons, and farewell. A new decade awaits us. It is time to put what we have learned to work.

By the Editors.

In recent months, the prolife movement has suffered some severe setbacks. Following the Supreme Court’s Webster decision, which granted the states considerable freedom to frame their own abortion laws, many prolifers looked forward to an easy slide towards strong prolife legislation throughout the United States.

It hasn’t happened. But this is no time for fainthearted retreat. It is, instead, time for evangelicals to engage in serious strategic planning and to buckle down to a long and hard battle for just abortion laws.

The recent Pennsylvania experience is a paradigm of what is to come. Militant groups from both sides descended on the legislators who sought to shape a law they were confident could stand up in court. Prolife advocates had expected an easy victory. But the well-organized efforts of the newly militant prochoice groups resulted in an emotion-charged debate. The outcome hung in the balance, as nervous legislators openly rethought their votes.

The Pennsylvania legislators finally passed, by a vote of 143 to 58, according to U.S. News & World Report, “one of the toughest antiabortion bills in the country.” It required informed consent—a woman must be told the risks of an abortion and of alternatives available to her; a waiting period—she must wait for 24 hours before obtaining an abortion; and spousal rights—a husband is to be notified before his wife’s abortion. Abortions for sex selection were banned outright, as well as the use of aborted fetuses for medical research. But what prolifers had thought would be an easy victory turned out to be a bitter battle.

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Other state legislatures have sought to avoid this highly charged issue in which, they feared, everyone stood to lose. Florida and Illinois legislators buried abortion legislation in committee just to play it safe.

Meanwhile, despite the threat of a presidential veto, Congress voted to ease Hyde Amendment restrictions by allowing federal funds to pay for abortions in the case of rape and incest, as well as when the life of the mother is in danger. This was a change from an eight-year-old policy. Moreover, the House reversed itself and once again allowed the Distict of Columbia to use congressionally appropriated funds to pay for abortions. And the Senate voted to restore funds for the United Nations Population Fund, cut off in 1985 because of China’s use of coercive abortions to control population. Although some of these reversals are relatively minor, they certainly do not augur an easy path to an abortion-free U.S.

Sharpening The Prolife Strategy

In part, the problem lies in matters over which prolife forces have no control. The defenders of the prochoice position have come up with some clever strategies. They have poured in immense sums of money and contributed untold hours of free time to their cause. The most effective work was done by the least extreme within their movement.

But for another part of this reversal, evangelicals have only themselves to blame. They have allowed the debate to focus on the issue of human freedom and particularly the freedom of women. In fact, abortion is not primarily a question of freedom. It is an issue of justice and child abuse and the “right” of one human to destroy another.

Furthermore, evangelicals have not shown a proper sensitivity to their opponents’ fears. They have not clarified exactly what kind of law they seek. As a result, defenders of abortion have focused on cases where they can gain the most sympathy. Do you really want a law that requires a mother’s life to be sacrificed to save the life of an unborn child? they ask. Do you really wish to force a woman to risk her life to save a child that has been forced upon her? Do you really insist that a mother bring to birth a fetus that is clearly subhuman? Or a child with deformities who will only experience intolerable pain and bring untold suffering and expense to the parents and society?

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Many prolifers have failed to distinguish between a law with no exceptions and one with specific exceptions (e.g., to save the life of the mother or for rape and incest).

The majority of the American people have repeatedly indicated that they, too, are opposed to abortion on demand. Yet they are not willing to pass laws that would require a mother to save the child at the cost of her own life or in the case of rape and incest. In fact, the only issue on which Americans are really seriously divided is in the case of those who are severely handicapped. Responsible prolife groups, such as the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, JustLife, and Christian Action Council, have noted this and have begun to plan their strategies accordingly.

The first step is to eliminate free access to such abortions as those that serve the convenience of the mother, those that allow a choice in sex, or those that function as birth control. Ninety percent of the American people believe that laws ought to be passed to prohibit abortions for such purposes. And the fact is that nearly 95 percent of all abortions actually occur on such trivial grounds. The lives of a million babies could be saved every year if we would legally restrict such abortions.

We, therefore, urge evangelicals to support any law that will restrict the present policy of unlimited access to abortion. When this goal is achieved, and not before then, we may lay our strategy to save the lives of the handicapped. But this in itself will be no small task. For that will require the nation and prolife forces to develop programs for the care of the handicapped and the education of the public to accept the full humanity of the congenitally disabled. Only then can they work for a wider victory that will bring us a truly just law.

In the years ahead, there will be many more setbacks. Victories will be small, with many ups and downs between. Yet with intelligent, strategic, and patient commitment to the cause, untiring hard work, and earnest prayer to our sovereign God, we shall prove faithful to our call to serve justice. And we can safely leave the final victory in God’s hands.

By Kenneth S. Kantzer.

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